Last night was the beginning of the next phase of Tommy Wiseau’s already improbable career. The ageless, country-less, talentless writer-director-actor gave his cinematic disasterpiece The Room its widest theatrical release ever in a one-night event and exclusively debuted the new trailer for his two-part follow-up project Best F(r)iends, which opens on a stolen ATM machine in a garage and kind of looks like the worst Coen Bros. movie the Coens never actually made. We laugh at The Room; Best F(r)iends will try to make us laugh with it. Eh. Good luck with that.
Then again, Wiseau already has plenty of experience in this department. It’s been nearly fifteen years since The Room was unleashed upon an unsuspecting (and possibly undeserving) world. In the time since then, he turned what, by all accounts, was made to be a sincere drama into the most aggressively monetized so bad, it’s good classic of the modern era:
You have to buy the movie directly from him online. You can’t legally stream it anywhere. If you live in a big city, he might attend a local midnight screening and flood the lobby with his exclusive Room-related merch. Heck, as revealed in the commercials before The Room last night you can even buy Tommy Wiseau boxers now. If you want to. Actually, please don’t do that.
At this point, Wiseau’s shameless, naked self-promotion is part of the joke and appeal of The Room. Who else but Tommy Wiseau would show up to the Golden Globes in a limo lined with The Room posters and later claim that had he been allowed to speak during James Franco’s acceptance speech he would have more or less quoted his own line from the movie about love being the answer to everything? The Room may not promise much for the long-term health of cinema, but its success is certainly an ode to capitalism and, as Vox put, “extravagant mythmaking.”
I’ve seen The Room twice now with highly interactive audiences and enjoyed the experience each time. Seeing it last night was like entering some kind of MST3K simulator where we were all deputized riffers, some better at it than others. I’ve also seen and liked The Disaster Artist, Franco’s $10m dramatization of the making of the movie. At this point, I get how the myth behind The Room adds to its appeal as does Wiseau’s alien-like grasp on basic human interaction. It’s. Just. So. Strange.
However, as several Logan Paul-esque bros left the theater after my The Room screening I overheard them proclaim, with no trace of sarcasm, “The Room is the most perfect movie ever made.” Perfect? The most perfectly imperfect movie, sure, but perfect?
Either way, it was a reminder that to certain audiences watching an epically awful movie is preferable to watching something more conventionally thought of as “good,” and that in the age of unfettered access and unparalleled amounts of quality content from TV/indie film it’s become more fashionable in some quarters to simply celebrate the trash. There are now 5 Sharknado movies that have tried to glom onto that. Same goes for several long-running podcasts like How Did This Get Made? and We Hate Movies, the ongoing Rifftrax commentaries, and Netflix’s truly wonderful MST3K revival.
Campy entertainment is nothing new, of course, nor are Rocky Horror-esque midnight screenings, but the art of appreciating/mocking bad movies has turned into a bit of a cottage industry, albeit a limited one. The Disaster Artist’s so-so box office is a sure sign of the limited mainstream awareness of The Room and films like it. Still, it’s easier than ever before to find like-minded individuals who will totally support your love for something like [random example] Showgirls.
What does this mean for Best F(r)iends? Bad movie appreciation is contingent on a fair degree of schadenfreude. You are literally celebrating colossal failure, pointing and laughing at a severe imbalance between talent and ambition. It’s not quite the same if the filmmakers are in on the joke if their failure to make something even remotely competent is actually intentional. How do Tommy Wiseau and his partner-in-crime Greg Sestero avoid falling into that trap?
They can’t. Not completely. Wiseau has remade himself into the intentional king of schlock and Best F(r)iends will inevitably lean into that persona. But it can’t be the same as The Room. The organic discovery so central to that film’s rise is out the window, and the reaction to The Room will undoubtedly influence what they do.
Yet thanks to the new internet-driven age of bad movie appreciation Tommy Wiseau is getting a second (or third?) act to his career. Lightning might not strike twice, but Tommy, the consummate salesman, will probably still be out there in the lobby trying to move merchandise. He still doesn’t look entirely certain as to why his fans love him, but he’s perfectly willing to accept their praise (and money). And, frankly, he’s just so damn peculiar that even if Best F(r)iends is him trying to make another cinematic disasterpiece it will be intriguing all the same.
Best F(r)iends will be released in two parts, the first one in March and the next in May.